EU: Some nuke plants likely to fail tests

March 18, 2011 at 9:30 AM

BRUSSELS, March 18 (UPI) -- Some of Europe's nuclear power plants likely will fail safety tests prompted by the nuclear crisis in Japan, the European Union's energy chief said.

The Europe-wide stress tests will assess nuclear plant exposure to potential earthquakes, tsunamis, terror attacks and power cuts, among other things, EUobserver.com reported from the bloc's headquarters in Brussels. Criteria are being developed.

"I think the stress tests that we want to carry out on all the nuclear reactors will show that not all of them meet the highest security standards," EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in a broadcast interview Thursday.

A 9-magnitude earthquake rocked the Fukushima facility last week, triggering explosions and fires in the plant. On Friday, Japan raised the alert level near the crippled nuclear plant from four to five on a seven-point scale.

Industry officials criticized Oettinger's remarks.

"It's too early to say that some plants will fail," Christian Taillebois, director of external relations with the European Atomic Forum, told EUobserver.com. "If the criteria (are) to automatically close some plants, this would be a bad thing."

Nuclear experts also expressed surprise.

"Perhaps he has some special information that we don't," said Stephan Kurth, a nuclear scientist with the Oko-Institut in Germany.

Kurth did acknowledge some of Europe's older nuclear plants were less safe than more modern facilities.

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